Depending on how old you are it wouldn’t be charity to say that you likely grew up watching Mister Rogers. This hit children’s television show is almost universally acclaimed for its wholesome message, incredible host (Fred Rogers), as well as its enduring popularity. Despite how popular Mister Rogers was many folks are still learning about it to this day! Today we are going to uncover 35 secret facts about the show that’ll render you speechless!
Fred Rogers risked his career for this show.
After leaving college Fred Rogers would head to New York City where he’d find a job as a producer for NBC. While working there he received a call from a startup station in Pittsburgh, his hometown. WQED, a public access channel, wanted Fred to come back home and work with them. Rogers agreed and moved back, despite the fact that WQED wasn’t even on the air yet.
Mr. Rogers dropped out of Ivy League school!
Err, kind of. Rogers attended a single year at Dartmouth before dropping out. Rogers then moved and attended to Rollins College where he’d major in music. Rogers was such a wholesome presence we wouldn’t doubt that he studied environmental education in his free time while at school,
Mr. Rogers hated children’s television.
And that is precisely what motivated him to start his own TV show. Mr. Rogers hated how most kid shows were senseless and silly products that didn’t have any sort of message. sure, Mr. Rogers wasn’t teaching about sustainable development for sustainable cities but at he approached children as if they were capable of learning — a difference maker for many kids around the world.
There was a touching reason Mr. Rogers explained everything.
If you spent more than a minute watching Mister Rogers then you remember his soft voice as he explained each and every action he took. The reason, as it turns out, a blind girl had written to the show and made the request.
Mister Rogers was uniquely constructed for children.
Scientific research revealed that children ages 3 to 5 responded to a speech rate of 124 words per minute better than any other speech rate. The production team at Mister Rogers made sure to keep all of their line deliveries in that tempo.
Fred Rogers was a prolific musician.
Mr. Rogers graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rollins College and immediately plied his musical trade on his show. Rogers would write more than 200 songs as the host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood.
Special shoes — for a purpose!
Do you remember how Mr. Rogers would put on a special pair of shoes at the beginning of every show? He did this so you wouldn’t hear him moving from set to set while operating the puppets. Dress shoes were far too loud.
Thank Mr. Rogers’ mom for the fashion!
As much as we loved Mr. Rogers’ soothing voice, it was his killer sweater game that always caught our attention. Each and every sweater was hand-knit by his mother for use on the show.
Mom saved the show!
Well, a bunch of moms did. When Mister Rogers was on the brink of being canceled the show would end up being saved by dedicated mothers going door-to-door raising money to save their children’s favorite show.
George Romero started his career on Mister Rogers.
George Romero is basically the inventor of zombie fiction. He got his first paying gig working as a production assistant on Mister Rogers. His first episode was Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.
Mister Rogers gently pushed the limits.
In an era when most kid shows were focused on pie throwing, Mister Rogers broached topics that ranged from getting a haircut all the way to coping with a family divorce. Truly revolutionary.
Each puppet was specially named.
In the Land of Make Believe you will find that each puppet was named after a family member in Rogers’ own life. When he ran out of family members to use, Fred Rogers started naming puppets after his friends.
Fred Rogers was a noted perfectionist.
Nothing could be out of order on set. Mr. Rogers wanted everything perfect before cameras rolled because he felt children deserved their best effort. He certainly wasn’t running a charity!
Michael Keaton worked on Mister Rogers!
Keaton got a few paying gigs on Mister Rogers while he lived out in Pittsburgh. He started at $2.25 an hour and even appeared on the show a few times. “Started from the bottom, now we…” Sorry, just had to!
The town stoplight is always on yellow.
During the introduction of the show the stoplight is always on yellow. Mr. Rogers’ wanted kids and parents at home to remember to ‘slow down a little bit.’.
There is a theme park ride based on the show!
While PBS never shoved advertising down Mister Roger viewers throats, they did pick some special marketing ventures. In Ligonier, PA there is a ride based on the trolley in the Land of Make Believe at the Idlewild Park.
Big Bird was not a fan.
Mr. Rogers once invited the actor that played Big Bird onto his show. He wanted to reveal the actor in the Big Bird costume to children. The actor declined saying it would ‘ruin the legacy of Big Bird’.
This was not Fred Rogers’ first show!
Mr. Rogers himself had a program before his self-titled show. Fred worked on The Children’s Corner alongside Josie Carey. He even used some of his same puppets!
Mr. Rogers wasn’t afraid of dead air.
Watch a TV show today and you’ll realize that there is almost always something loud going on. Fred Rogers’ wasn’t afraid to have dead air on his program because it promoted ‘patience’ to children.
Improv was a no-go on Mister Rogers.
We already told you that Fred loved to have everything perfect. This naturally meant that he hated improve. Every segment had to be word perfect before it went to air.
Fred Rogers saved the VCR!
In front of the Supreme Court Fred Rogers was called to testify on behalf of Sony against Jack Velnti of the MPAA. Rogers made a compelling and eloquent argument for the legality of the VCR as a device.
Fred Rogers appeared in ‘Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman’.
Don’t think you’ll find Fred Rogers in many programs throughout his career. His only real acting credit was on Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.
Mr. Rogers fought to keep PBS around.
Government cuts are always a danger to public access television. When President Nixon contemplated cutting funding to PBS, Rogers’ testified at a hearing in order to save the station.
Mr. Rogers was not a former soldier.
For a few years there was a persistent rumor that Fred Rogers was a former Navy Seal or Marine and that he was a secret killing machine. This was nothing more than an urban legend gone awry.
Mr. Rogers hated the name he gave the show’s mailman.
While Mister Rogers is as innocent a show as there is, Fred still realized that he shouldn’t have named the mailman ‘Mr. McFeely’. Whoops. Years later Fred Rogers would admit that he should have been more careful with the name.
Mister Rogers beat Sesame Street in studies.
Yale performed studies on story reception and learning abilities with children. In the study they collected statistics on two groups: one who watched Mister Rogers and another who watched Sesame Street. The Rogers group consistently outperformed the Sesame Street group.
Saying hello to mom.
To say that Mr. Rogers was a momma’s boy would be an understatement. Fred said that whenever he put a sweater on during the show he was really just saying hello to his mom.
Not so perfect vision.
As it turns out, Fred Rogers was colorblind. He never knew what color sweatshirt he was wearing during tapings.
Fred Rogers believed in civil disobedience.
Rogers was a critic of the Vietnam War and that stance was echoed in the show. During an episode with King Friday XIII there was some pointed social commentary with a barbed wire fence being torn down.
Koko the Gorilla loved Mr. Rogers.
Fred Rogers visited the famous Gorilla and received quite the welcome. Koko apparently watched the show, could sign 1,000 different words, and even asked Mr. Rogers to take his shoes off – just like on TV!
A sweater for the history books.
One of Mr. Rogers’ famous cardigans made its way to the Smithsonian. Mr. Rogers donated a red sweater to the museum.
Fred Rogers never swore.
In fact, you rarely ever heard the man frazzled. The harshest word he would use was ‘Mercy’. As in, “Mercy, that’s a lot of fanmail.’
Mr. Rogers lived by strict personal rules.
He liked to weigh exactly 143 lbs every single day. Fred Rogers never drank, smoked, swore, or ate the flesh of a single animal.
Reporters loved Fred Rogers.
In fact, it became difficult for reporters to get a good story! Whenever they met up with Fred he would turn the interview around and ask them a million questions. He would remember all of their answers and create friendships as a result.
An honorary genius.
While Fred Rogers graduated from Rollins College in Florida, it would not be the only degree he’d get. Mr. Rogers would end up being awarded over 40 honorary degrees from institutions all over the country.